Are you are thinking of starting or increasing your family in 2016? Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to give yourself the best chance of success.
1.Take a prenatal supplementwith at least 1 mg of folic acid. Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
2.Don’t smoke: Smoking can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, and low-birth weight babies, as well as negatively affect your fertility.
3.Eat a healthy diet. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet may increase the chances of getting pregnant—especially with women who have problems with ovulation or a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).Try to have at least 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies every day. Choose whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil. Eat a variety of protein sources, such as beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, poultry, and meats.
4.Watch your weight: Women with a body mass index (BMI) of under 19 or over 32 have a lower chance of getting pregnant and an increased risk of miscarriage. If you are overweight, just losing 5-10 pounds can significantly improve your fertility.
5.Know when you are ovulating: Ovulation problems are one of the most common reasons for women having trouble conceiving. If your menstrual cycle is irregular or very far apart (a regular cycle is between 26 and 34 days), then you may not be regularly be ovulating.
The easiest way to find out if you are ovulating, and the one I recommend to my patients at Olive, is to use an Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK) where you pee on a stick, and it measures a surge in the luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine.
The 12 to 36 hours from the time you test positive for ovulation is the best time to conceive.
Ovulation predictor kits are useful because they tell you when you are about to ovulate so you can have intercourse before you ovulate. The sperm will live in the body for approximately three days but the egg only lives for 24-48 hours, so it is important to have intercourse before you ovulate rather than after.
Men are always producing sperm and sperm production is very sensitive to environmental factors.
6. Don’t expose testicles to excessive heat. This includes hot baths, hot tubs, or saunas. Also, avoid tight clothing or working with a laptop on your lap. Continuous exposure to excessive heat can lower your sperm count.
7. Quitsmoking: Smoking decreases sperm production.
8. Use prescription drugs with caution and stop using recreational drugs: Anabolic steroids, marijuana, and some prescription medications may reduce sperm production.
9. Takeyour vitamins: Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and coenzyme Q 10 can help improve sperm quality.
10. Watch your weight: You should aim for a healthy body weight as being either overweight or underweight can contribute to decreased sperm count and sexual function.
What if we don’t get pregnant?
The good news is that most fertility issues can be treated, and the majority of couples will go on to achieve their dream of having a baby. But how do you know when it’s time to get medical advice?
Talk to your doctor
– If you are under the age of 35 and have been attempting to get pregnant for at least 12 months, or if you are over 35 and have been trying to conceive for more than six months, you should seea physician. A woman’s chance of getting pregnant decreases after 32 and the chances dropsignificantly after age 37.
– If you have been diagnosed with a condition known asendometriosis or have had a previous pelvic infection or sexually transmitted disease,you are at increased risk of infertility.
– If your partner has a history of disease (e.g. mumps), injury or surgery on his testicles, difficulty with erection or ejaculation, or if he has been diagnosed with a sperm problem.
– If you have irregular menstrual cycles, especially when they occur infrequently (every 2, 3 or more months apart) or those which occur less than 25 days apart.
– If you or your partner has a known health problem such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of cancer treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
– If you have a family history of early menopause among the women in your immediate family (mother, sister), you, too, may be at risk of the same problem.
Remember that for the majority of couples who have difficulty conceiving, advances in medical treatment have made it possible for them to have a baby. In BC yourconsultations with a fertility specialist, as well as initial investigations for infertility, are covered by MSP.
Dr Gunu Warraich MD
Dr Gunu Warraich completed her MD degree and a residency in obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Manitoba and her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Ottawa. She now practices at the Olive Fertility Clinic in Surrey, BC.